Alias: Mateus
M.O.: Master of dark sorcery and ruler of very militant, well-armed nation
Known crimes: Attempted to conquer the world using superior technology, vast armies of demonic soldiers, and an indomitable will
First Appearance: Final Fantasy II (Square, Famicom, 1988)
Nature of demise: Killed by a group of adventurers. Later slain again by same group.

Profile by Mike Zeller? | March 6, 2011

The Emperor is the best Final Fantasy villain ever. Period.

Oh, I know some of you prefer the playfully psychotic Kefka or the literally unbeatable Golbez. Maybe some of you think Chaos is best because he was first. I bet a bunch of you feel the comic relief villains like Ultros, Gilgamesh, or the Turks deserve the top spot because theyíre funny. And God help you, Iím sure there are a few of you reading this who genuinely believe Sephiroth is the best villain to ever grace a Final Fantasy game. Well, youíre wrong. Itís the Emperor.

Of course, I canít fault you for being skeptical. Final Fantasy II was one of the last in the series to make it stateside, and when it did the dated gameplay combined with the extremely opaque character development system were more than enough to prevent all but the most devoted gamers from making enough progress to truly appreciate the Emperorís grandeur.

And it doesnít help that the Emperor makes a pretty poor first impression. At the start of Final Fantasy II, heís the unseen ruler of the Palamecian Empire, which is currently using its overwhelming military and technological superiority to conquer the rest of the known world. Just in case anyone isnít clear on how naughty this is, the Emperor has also reinforced his legions with seemingly endless swarms of demons heís summoned from Hell using dark magic.

When Firion and the other heroes first encounter the Emperor in person, he acts cocky and condescending, secure in the knowledge that the vast power heís accumulated is more than enough to deal with a handful of rebellious ragamuffins. These kinds of villains are a dime a dozen, particularly in Japanese role-playing games. Then, the second time the heroes enter his presence, they kill him. Dead. Yes, the narrativeís central antagonist appears a grand total of two times before he is summarily killed off. Hell, itís not even much of a battle.

After spending much of the game bludgeoning their way through hundreds of absolutely hideous random encounters only to have what was gearing up to be the gameís most climactic encounter fizzle out like a soggy firecracker most players feel a supreme sense of dissatisfaction. Like I said, not that impressive.

In fact, if that was all there was to the Emperor I would probably consider him the worst Final Fantasy villain ever. Thankfully thereís more.

Unfortunately for the heroes, the death of the Emperor and the destruction of his cyclonic super weapon did little to end the Palamecian Empireís aggression, as former second-in-command, the Dark Knight, has simply stepped up to replace his deceased boss. Upon their meeting both the heroes and the Dark Knight brace for a knock-down, drag-out fight to the finish only to be interrupted moments before they can begin by the gruesomely transformed Emperor who manifests in the hall.

And let me be clear that this is not one of those, ďHa, ha! Iím not really dead!Ē moments which are so popular among villains in these kinds of games. After his last encounter with the playerís party the Emperor was super dead. The thing was, he was also super pissed. As the Emperor goes on to explain, he was so mad about being killed by a bunch of punk kids that after his death he conquered Hell, killed Satan, and then used the power of his white hot, incandescent fury to transcend the boundaries of time and space and will himself back into existence so he could avenge himself upon all creation. Now thatís a villain! He was literally too angry to stay dead.

They should have just ended the game right then and there, because at that point any reasonable player is totally rooting for the Emperor.

While Square tends to largely ignore most of Final Fantasyís non-Sephiroth bad guys, even they have been forced to acknowledge that this guy is pretty much the best villain ever.

In their recent Final Fantasy fanservice fighter, Dissidia, who should appear leading all the other Final Fantasy villains? Thatís right, the Emperor, smug as ever.

If thatís not a glowing endorsement of his superior quality, I donít know what is.

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